After four games of experimenting with the top of his lineup, LSU coach Paul Mainieri returned to a proven formula in Saturday’s contest against Kentucky.
Designated hitter Chris Sciambra had found a temporary home in the leadoff spot, getting the nod at the top of the lineup last weekend against Arkansas.
Sciambra thrived, hitting for a .411 average, including two multi-hit contests.
But following Friday night’s 5-3 series-opening loss to Kentucky, Mainieri turned to sophomore left fielder Jake Fraley to lead off again.
“I think Fraley’s been swinging the bat great, and I wanted to get more speed at the top of the order, and Fraley’s our leadoff hitter,” Mainieri said. “Fraley is the superior leadoff hitter for us because he brings more speed to the position.”
The Tigers have now won 10 of 12 games with Fraley leading off, including Saturday’s 7-3 victory over the Wildcats.
Fraley initially seemed to enjoy being back in his usual slot, lining a single up the middle in the bottom of the third inning and stealing second base.
That was his only hit, however, as he finished 1-for-5, including a grounder into a fielder’s choice with a runner on third base and one out in the bottom of the seventh inning of a 2-1 game.
“I thought I was hitting the ball hard like I have been over the last week,” Fraley said. “It’s just about going out there and playing some baseball.”
Fraley might have had only one hit, but he certainly made an impact in left field.
With two runners on in the top of the eighth inning of a 2-2 contest, Fraley made a leaping grab at the wall to preserve the tie.
“Most of the time with balls like that off the bat, with my initial step, you know if you’re going to get to it,” Fraley said. “So off the bat, based off my first step, my reaction was so good that I knew I was going to get to it.”
The top three hitters in LSU’s order all reached first base in Saturday’s contest.
None of them stayed there long. Fraley and juniors Mark Laird and Alex Bregman all stole second.
Bregman notched his 14th steal of the season, two away from his career-high (16) set during his freshman year. Fraley and Laird are one steal away from matching their career highs of eight and 10, respectively.
Six Tigers extended their hitting streaks on Saturday: Andrew Stevenson (13), Scivicque (10), Laird (eight), Jared Foster (five), Chris Chinea (five) and Conner Hale (five). ... In the seventh inning, Sciambra hit a triple down the left-field line. After briefly examining the play, the umpiring crew upheld the call.